Time available in a sprint

One of the themes which I get asked most often is, how to calculate how much time is available in a given sprint and to know if someone is overcommitted or undercommitted during a sprint. And its not Scrum Masters, but teams asking this question.

Well lets say the team comprises of four members – Anand, Lee, Sam and Pamela. In addition, there are two part time members – Rose and Kate. We assume there is a two week sprint. A 4 hour sprint planning and 4 hour sprint review/ retrospective means one day of the two week sprint goes in ceremonies. The first step is to ensure every one is available for these ceremonies. Once they are there, you can write down each of the coming working days and check for half day leaves/ full day leaves or other engagements for everyone. You can then note down effective hours everyone has available and do the total. Doing this every sprint can give a “very rough” mapping between hours available and story points burned. Why this approach works is because we are not mapping hours spent and story points burned. As hours available and story points burned are suitably high level abstractions of estimates and planning – this gives “rough insight” for a team to plan.

Another variant of this approach is to try checking how many quarter days each member has available. You don’t know how many hours in quarter days has one available, just how many quarter days are there [in all there are 4 quater days a day]. You can then map the quarter days with story points burned. Similarly, half day approach can be tried.

Both the above approaches are supposed to be used only if team members would want to use them as a rough insight into how much work to plan. This would be probably useful also if the team adds or removes members often, and some sort of rough guidance for the team on time available and story points to be picked up is helpful.

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